Although the pain of arthritis is a major factor in having joint replacement, the majority of joint surgeries are elective, says Art Schoenstadt, MD, founder of the health information Web site eMedTV.com, which features more than 30 articles on joint-replacement surgeries. That means you – and only you – make the ultimate decision as to whether you will have joint surgery, he says. It also means you have the luxury of time to make the decision and to plan, once you do.

People reach the decision at different times and for different reasons. For some, joint pain becomes unbearable and is no longer relieved by exercise, medication or other conservative methods. For others, stiffness or immobility affects their ability to do their jobs, care for their homes and families or enjoy their favorite activities.

Waiting a month – or even a year or two – to pursue surgery probably won’t have lifelong effects (although many people who have waited much longer say they wish they had had it sooner). And waiting for even a short time can enable you to learn all you can about the procedure and then prepare for it – mentally, physically and financially.

In this three-part series, Arthritis Today will guide you through all the steps – from decision making to recovery. 

Although joint surgery is rarely life-saving, many people can attest it can be life-changing. Preparing for surgery properly can help ensure the change is a positive one.

Know thyself

Just as there are many forms of arthritis, there are many types of arthritis surgeries.

Understanding your precise problem – torn cartilage, worn cartilage, a limb-length discrepancy or osteonecrosis (death) of the bone adjacent to the joint, for example – as well as the treatment options, is important as you consider surgery.